Jenni Kuisma -

What does design learning give children?



Next September, in Habitare’s children’s area, Habi Kids, the focus will be on design education and creative learning.

This time, children will be in control, as the Habi Kids area will be built based on their designs. In workshops organised by SuoMu – the Finnish Association of Design Education – children thought about what the Habi Kids concept could include: in Helsinki, the children created floor plans, service flows and programme items, while in Loviisa, they created colour and pattern designs. The end result is a play laboratory and space for creative learning, which is perhaps the world’s most fun learning theme park.

Why should children be provided with design education? This is what we asked Viivi Lehtonen from SuoMu – the Finnish Association of Design Education.

“We can also talk about design learning, which is something closer to the world of children. Design learning promotes children’s environmental literacy; it is creative learning. When you do things yourself, you learn more. Doing things yourself develops critical thinking, creative problem-solving, and teamwork and presentation skills,” Lehtonen responds.

The new national core curricula for basic education were introduced last autumn in all municipalities and schools. Their goals include encouraging children to take the initiative, learn to take responsibility for their studies, set goals and solve problems.

The new curriculum talks about “phenomenon-based learning”, a multidisciplinary approach that is very close to design learning. Both apply a bottom-up approach, which means that children are given a chance to influence how they learn.

Last year, completed a pilot project in the Arabianranta district in Helsinki. During the project, teachers were introduced to the methods of design learning.

“Teachers engage children in planning lessons, and this motivates the children to learn. Each teacher will, of course, do this in their own way,” Lehtonen adds.

To support design education, the Finnish Association of Design Education continuously shares new teaching materials with teachers. Similarly, schools can invite a design ambassador trained by the association to show what hands-on design education is like. Schools can receive a visit from a product or fashion designer, an interior or furniture designer, a graphic designer, a craft teacher, or a service designer.

Still, do we have to specifically teach creativity to children? Should we not just make sure that they remain creative and encourage them to engage in creativity? It is not often that a child says that they have a problem. If at first something does not work, a child will think for a moment, try again, think, experiment, think, and finally find a solution.

“It is precisely this idea that is at the heart of design learning. This examine-invent-experiment-tell approach comes from the world of children and comes naturally to them. Children want to do things themselves. We encourage them to step into the shoes of a designer. A child, too, is motivated by possibilities,” Lehtonen says.

Design learning, then, is about taking the initiative, experimenting, changing perspectives and sharing ideas. And you can always try again, not letting any error or failure discourage you. These tools of the creative industries are useful to all of us, because life is a continuous learning process.


Material for teachers

Habi Kids themes


Habitare, the largest furniture, interior decoration and design fair in Finland, will be held at Messukeskus in Helsinki, from 13 to 17 September 2017. Habi Kids is a satellite event of the Helsinki Design Week Children’s Weekend. The Children’s Weekend is one of the major events of Helsinki Design Week, to be held from 13 to 17 September 2017.